🦄 The DART Weekly #5 ~ Failure stories

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November 21, 2020

Entrepreneurship Chronicles

Oprah Winfrey is the woman behind The Oprah Winfrey Show (YouTube), and much more!
The first African American woman to own her own production company. The first and only African American female billionaire with an estimated net worth of about $2.6 billion (BusinessInsider).
She is the ultimate icon within the women-led entrepreneurial movement. 
Born and raised from a poor family in Mississipi, life didn’t start easy for Oprah. After being sexually abused in her early life, she moved to Tennessee with her father, where she started her broadcasting career. Thanks to her charismatic approach and her open and warm-hearted style, she conquered a place in the lives of many Americans, rapidly progressing from being the voice of the high school radio to leading one of the most famous talk shows.
Indeed, in 1986 she launched her own program "The Oprah Winfrey Show", which was aired until 2011. Over the years she became such a strong presence in the life of Americans that whoever she endorsed would benefit from the Oprah Effect (Investopedia), boosting the commercial performances of her guests' ventures. One example? Her last interview with Obama presenting his latest book (YouTube).

An example for every entrepreneur out there, Oprah's story is all about resilience, motivation and persistence. To use her own words: “The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free”.

Ventures 101

😳 How to fail

It's sad I know, so here's a cool info-graphic to ease the sadness (Failory <-- really cool, worth skimming). Jokes apart, startups fail and that's the straight truth. Here are the most common reasons: no market need, running out of money, wrong team, and wrong timing (CB Insight). Today we'll go through some stories of failures, learn from them, and don't make the same mistakes.


This is the story of how you can fail without even starting. SmarTrainingSystem, founded by three tech founders, was trying to improve the user experience in the gym using IoT and AI. What went wrong? A lot of things. Customer validation started too late and ended up targeting the wrong customers. The team was missing some skills and lost focus. They were not able to pivot so they folded before acquiring the first target.
Are you comfortable in the morgue? Check out the full autopsy here.


How can you go from 200k ARR and $20M acquisition offer to 0? That's what happened to Yottio, the “Zoom for broadcast TV". Yottio was a mobile-first tool that enabled video participation on broadcast television. The startup went through all experiences, including making $200k in revenue, spending $150k for operations, a co-founder leaving the business and a $20m acquisition offer. However, Yottio eventually ran out of cash and shut down.
Wanna know the nitty-gritty details? You can read the full autopsy here.

Starsky Robotics

This is how a $20m Series B can fall apart and the next day you are closing the company. Starsky Robotics was an autonomous truck company founded in 2016. It developed trucks able to drive without a person in the cabin and it was the first company to deliver the first fully-unmanned truck to drive on a live highway. In this case, timing is to blame as the company paid the unmet promise of AI technology to be effective on a practical solution.
Curiosity over self-preservation? Let me hand over to you the full autopsy here.

Of Unicorns and Cowboys

🦄 The Rounds

The deals worth knowing in Europe and beyond - ordered from coolest to coolio

🇪🇪 Breed: At $1.5B valuation, Pipedrive is the most recent unicorn in the Estonian stable. So far its CRM has boosted the perfomance of 90000+ sales team in managing leads and clsoing deals.

🇮🇹 Steady: Payment provider Satispay raised €93M at €248M valuation backed by Square and Tencent. With 1.3M users in Italy and a 78% increase in transaction in 2020, it will expand across Europe.

🇫🇷 Icebreaker: Social network Yubo raised €40M. With a freemium business model, it does not sell users data or feed them with ads. Plus there are no influencers, only yet-to-know friends.

🇩🇪 Piecework: Berlin-based Bliq raised €2M. Its app offers rideshare and delivery gig workers an edge to boost their rides and earnings. It supports Uber, Bolt, Free Now and Ola.

🌈 The Pots

The exits you should follow in Europe and beyond - IPO, direct listing, SPAC, bankruptcy ... all awesome stuff

🇳🇴 CAD: Spacemaker AI was acquired by Autodesk for $240M right after its Series A. It will stay independent to further help property developers with its ai-powered urban development software.

🇸🇪 Obligated: Min Doktor raised €27M. It is the third-largest telemedicine startup in Sweden, yet supposedly the closest one to IPO. Why? The backers want out!

🇮🇹 Open innovation: Founded in 2013, Lanieri was entirely acquired by its first investor wool-maker Reda. The digital statups specialised in premium custom made suits had revenues for €5.5M last year.

🇬🇧 Spree: Snapchat strikes again. It acquired Voisey, the TikTok of music creation, for an undisclosed amount. The London-based startup had raised $1.88M to date and notably was the launch platform of artist poutyface.

🤠 The Funds

The tales of unicorns' hunters you should know about - particularly relevant if you are a founder looking for backing

🌿 Finally: Skype calls and crammed trips no more. After early Europeans investments like Klarna, Unity and UiPath, Sequoia decided to set up a shop in London also convinced by the growth of the market.

💸 Ravenous: $16.5B is the AuM of a16z. The firm has recently closed early-stage Fund VII at $1.3B and later-stage Growth Fund II at $3.2B. Software is still hungry.

🇧🇪 Impactful: Here comes European largest agritech fund: $325M. It belongs to Astanor Ventures and it will focus on Series A to C startups in agriculture, food and oceantech.

🇬🇷 Hellenic: Marathon Venture Capital raised €40M. The focus of Fund II are B2B seed-stage startups in Greece or led by Greek founders.

🌏 Alive and kicking: Despite the poor performance earlier this year, Masayoshi Son and Softbank are in great shape. In fact they have $80B ready to splurge in unicorns and dragons.

🧑‍🎤 ... and The Quirky Ones

The crazy stuff we gossip about while sipping our chai latte - it's like others, but better

🇪🇺 Support: The EU welcomes agreement on €1.8T package to boost the continent towards a greener, more digital and resilient future. More than 50% of the total sum will be used to back innovative initiatives.

🤦 Naive: Product? Ready. Media coverage? Plenty. Influencer marketing? An army. Partnership with Mastercard? Signed. FCA approval? Missed. Everything tumbles at consumer fintech Lanistar.

🍆 Lock: Mix chastity lock and IoT, you get Qiui Cellmate. Add some security flaws, you get a possible disaster. Morale? Stay kinky, STAY SECURE.

😲 Peculiar: Data company and Palantir look-alike Faculty was gifted by Skype cofounder Jaan Tallinn with $750k worth of cryptocurrencies earlier this year. The gift tripled in worth since then.
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